How a Wine Epiphany Showed Me Wine is Not Just For Rich People

Epiphany bottles are just that. Epiphanies. Every serious wine lover has one locked away in his or her mental cellar. It’s the one that sucked them into wine and makes them say, ‘I wish I knew how to quit you.’ 

My own epiphany bottle was a magnum of Bordeaux my photography partner Tony and had I absconded with after a studio shoot for the Chalone Wine Group. We shouldn’t have taken it, but as we left, Harold shouted from the car, “Grab the magnum!” So I did. We brought it home that evening and drank it with a pepperoni pizza – a very, very good pizza – and handily consumed the entire liter-and-a-half. In the process, the bottle prompted a sensory breakthrough that changed my life. 

Lafite Rothschild 1986.2

Before then, I had never experienced a wine that tasted so deep and expensive flavored. As I stared at the deep scarlet tint through our cheap Luminarc glasses, marveling at the wine’s near opacity, I realized this was no ordinary grape juice.

“Damn, this is good wine,” I said after almost every sip. It had the kind of pure fruit and balance I’d never noticed in a wine before, and I savored every drop. “Damn, this wine is good.” 

That catharsis made me realize that the appreciation of fabulous wines is not just for rich people. Little unsophisticated me can dig wine too, even if I can’t afford to buy it.

When our client from Chalone had asked about the magnum, we had no choice but to confess. My partner lied by telling her the wine had made a huge red mess all over our studio floor when it fell off the workbench. 

“Of course we’ll pay for it,” He told her. “We’re responsible.”

The wine? A Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1986 Pauillac, valued at ninety dollars. A lot of money in 1994, when you could get a Napa Cabernet for $8. So, although I may not have known exactly what I liked about this cabernet, at least I knew a great wine when I tasted it. 

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